Is it cheaper to eat in Singapore

Is Food Cheap in Singapore 2024? 

Affordability of food in Singapore is a topic of considerable debate among locals and tourists alike. I have often heard the question posed: "Is food cheap in Singapore?" With its diverse culinary landscape, Singapore offers a wide range of dining options, from hawker centres and food courts to upscale restaurants. The cost for a meal can therefore vary greatly depending on where one chooses to dine.

Hawker centres, for instance, are a cornerstone of Singaporean food culture and are known for their affordable meals. These vibrant all in one complexes feature a variety of stalls selling a range of dishes from different ethic backgrounds. Here, one can enjoy a hearty meal without significantly denting their wallet. In contrast, dining at restaurants, particularly those in tourist-centric areas or with a fine dining focus, can be considerably more costly.

When considering the overall cost of living in Singapore, which is relatively high, food prices at hawker centres are often perceived as a welcome respite. However, with rising operational costs and the impact of global economic fluctuations, even these prices have been subject to increases. The belief in the affordability of Singaporean food is therefore contextual and merits a discussion that takes into account these various factors.

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Overview of Food Prices in Singapore

In Singapore, I find the range of food prices quite broad, allowing for a varied budget. The cost of dining can be categorised into three main tiers: hawker centres, mid-range establishments, and high-end restaurants.

Hawker Centres: A central aspect of Singaporean food culture, hawker centres offer affordable meal options, with prices typically ranging from SGD 2.50 to SGD 10.00. These non air-con complexes host multiple food stalls, each specialising in different local cuisines.

Examples of hawker centre meal prices:

  • Chicken rice: SGD 3.50
  • Laksa: SGD 4.00
  • Nasi Lemak: SGD 3.50

Mid-range Establishments: Mid-range dining options, including casual restaurants and food courts in shopping malls, present a moderate pricing structure. Meals here can vary from SGD 10.00 to SGD 25.00.

Examples of mid-range meal prices:

  • Pasta dish: SGD 15.00
  • Seafood meal: SGD 20.00
  • Asian fusion: SGD 18.00

High-end Restaurants: The upper echelon involves fine dining at upmarket restaurants where the ambiance and culinary experience are reflective in the price, with main courses often starting from SGD 35.00, reaching beyond SGD 100.00 for premium dishes or degustation menus.

Examples of high-end meal prices:

  • Steak dinner: SGD 60.00
  • Fine dining set menu: SGD 150.00

It's noteworthy that supermarkets and wet markets provide ingredients for home cooking at various price points, potentially offering a more cost-effective solution for residents looking to manage their food budget.

Comparison to Other Countries

In assessing the cost of food in Singapore, it is essential to examine how these prices stack up against those in other regions. Direct comparisons to neighbouring Southeast Asia and Western countries reveal stark contrasts due to differing economic landscapes and consumer behaviours.

Southeast Asia

In comparison to its Southeast Asian neighbours, Singapore often exhibits higher food prices. For instance, my research shows that a basic meal in a restaurant in Singapore might cost around SGD 15, whereas in Thailand, the equivalent meal could be a mere SGD 3. To further illustrate:

  • Singapore: SGD 15 for a basic meal
  • Thailand: SGD 6 for a similar meal
  • Malaysia: SGD 8 for a comparable meal

These figures highlight Singapore's relatively pricier food options within the region.

Western Countries

Conversely, when comparing to Western countries, Singapore's food prices may appear more moderate. For example, a meal at a mid-range restaurant for two could cost approximately SGD 50-60 in Singapore. In contrast, the same experience in major cities like London or New York could be upwards of SGD 100. Here's a simple comparison:

  • Singapore: SGD 50-60 for a mid-range meal for two
  • London: SGD 80-120 for a similar dining experience
  • New York: SGD 100-150 for a comparable meal

This comparison showcases Singapore's intermediate position on the global scale of food costs.

Budget-Friendly Eating Options

I'll be shedding light on the most cost-effective food venues in Singapore, where delicious meals can be enjoyed at a fraction of restaurant prices.

Hawker Centres and Food Courts

In my experience, hawker centres and food courts stand as the cornerstone of affordable dining in Singapore. Maxwell Food Centre and Chinatown Complex are prominent for their variety and value, with dishes often priced between SGD 3 to 5. For example:

  • Chicken Rice: SGD 3.50
  • Laksa: SGD 4.00
  • Roti Prata: SGD 1.20 per piece

These centres are a melting pot of cultures, offering everything from Malay nasi lemak to Indian mee goreng.

Supermarket and Wet Market Shopping

I frequently visit supermarkets like FairPrice and Sheng Siong, along with wet markets, for fresh produce at competitive prices. For instance, a week’s worth of vegetables can cost as little as SGD 10. Shopping here allows for cooking at home, which significantly reduces food expenses.

  • Meat: Chicken breast (500g) - SGD 7.00
  • Fish: Mackerel (150g) - SGD 7.00
  • Vegetables: Lettuce (1 head) - SGD 1.90

Local Food Promotions

I also keep an eye on local food promotions through apps or credit card deals. Many hawker stalls and smaller eateries offer lunch specials or discounts. For example, certain food courts have meal deals for under SGD 5 during off-peak hours. Platforms like Eatigo and HungryGoWhere provide timely discounts that are easy to utilise.

Factors Influencing Food Costs

In Singapore, the cost of food is affected by various specific factors due to its geographical and economic landscape. I’ll discuss these in the following subsections.

Import Dependencies

A significant portion of Singapore's food supply is imported, which makes food prices highly sensitive to changes in global market conditions. Exchange rates, transportation costs, and international demand all impact the price of imports. If the cost of shipping increases or if a key exporting country suffers poor harvests, Singapore might experience higher food prices.

Real Estate Impact on Food Pricing

The price of real estate in Singapore undoubtedly affects food costs. With high rental prices for retail spaces, food establishments reflect these costs in their prices. Restaurants, hawker centres, and retail outlets must incorporate their rent into the cost of food, resulting in higher prices for consumers.

Governmental Regulations and Subsidies

The Singaporean government implements various regulations and subsidies to stabilise food costs. Schemes like the GST Voucher Scheme are designed to mitigate the impact of taxes on the cost of living, including food. Conversely, health-related regulations may lead to increases in costs for some foods as they ensure food safety standards are maintained.

Seasonal Variations and Festivals

Seasonal fluctuations and cultural celebrations can cause food prices to fluctuate. Demand can surge during festivals like Chinese New Year or Christmas, driving up prices. Similarly, seasonal monsoons may disrupt supply chains and affect the availability and cost of certain food items.

Expensive Dining Experiences

In Singapore, I find that the pursuit of culinary excellence often comes with a hefty price tag. The city is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated dining scene, and for those seeking a lavish experience, the options are plentiful. Amongst the high-end options, a few establishments stand out for their exorbitant dining experiences.

  • Waku Ghin: Here, a ten-course omakase menu showcases the artistry of Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. The use of premium ingredients such as sea urchin and Wagyu beef contributes to the cost, which averages around SGD 450 per person before drinks.
  • Ja’an: Once holding a Michelin star, Ja’an is known for its French haute cuisine with a touch of modernity. The degustation menu is priced at approximately SGD 300.
  • Les Amis: Offering exquisite French cuisine, Les Amis is where I savour meticulously prepared dishes that emphasise the purity of flavours. For a multi-course experience, expect to spend in the region of SGD 295 to SGD 425.
  • Quenino by Victor Liong: Set in Artyzen Singapore, it is famous for its playful take on contemporary Asian concept, with meals that could exceed SGD 180 per diner.

Lastly, given the exclusivity of these establishments, reservations are often required well in advance, and dress codes may be enforced. The attentive service and opulent ambience enhance the overall lavish experience, securing these eateries' reputations as culinary beacons for those willing to indulge at a premium.

Average Expenditure on Food

I'll explore the typical costs of food for both local residents and tourists in Singapore. This will provide a clearer picture of food expenditure patterns within these distinct groups.

Local Residents

For local residents in Singapore, my monthly food expenses can vary significantly based on eating habits and choices. According to data from the Singapore Department of Statistics, an average household’s monthly expenditure on food is approximately 20%. The expenditure splits between groceries and dining out. I've tabulated a breakdown to illustrate this further:

Expense Type % of Food Budget Monthly Cost per pax (SGD)
Groceries 50% 160 - 300
Dining Out 50% 300 - 700


In contrast, tourists face a different expenditure pattern due to a tendency to dine out more often. On average, a tourist might spend around SGD 10 to SGD 50 per meal. Assuming a tourist has three meals a day, this can amount to:

  • Daily expenditure: SGD 30 - SGD 150
  • Weekly expenditure: SGD 210 - SGD 1,050

These costs are a snapshot based on typical dining at mid-range establishments:

Meal Time Cost per Meal (SGD)
Breakfast 10 - 20
Lunch 20 - 35
Dinner 20 - 35

Tips for Saving on Food in Singapore

When visiting or living in Singapore, you'll find that dining out can deplete your wallet quickly. However, I've gathered some strategies to help you stretch your dollar further while still enjoying the diverse culinary delights that this city offers.

Budget Meals: I often eat at hawker centres, food courts, and coffee shops where affordable meals are plenty. A typical dish costs between SGD 3 and SGD 5.

  • Hawker Centres: These are ubiquitous and offer a vast array of inexpensive local dishes.
  • Coffee Shops/ Kopi Tiams: Scattered around residential areas, they serve similar food to hawker centres but in a more relaxed setting. Usually more pricey than hawkers.
  • Food Courts: Located mostly in shopping malls, prices may be slightly higher than hawker centres but they still offer value for money.

Supermarket Deals: I purchase groceries from local supermarkets. Look for weekly deals at NTUC FairPrice or Giant. I recommend buying store-brand items which are often cheaper.

Cook at Home: Preparing my own meals markedly reduces my food expenditure. I buy fresh produce from wet markets in the morning for the best deals.

Discount Apps: I utilise apps like Eatigo, Fave, or Entertainer for discounts at various restaurants across the city.

Off-Peak Dining: Dining during off-peak hours can result in special deals and reduced prices.

Sharing Meals: I occasionally share main courses or appetisers, which also allows me to try a greater variety of dishes.

By adopting these strategies, you can enjoy the food scene in Singapore without overspending.

Is cooking at home cheaper in Singapore?

In Singapore, the cost of eating out can be quite high, especially if one frequently dines at restaurants. I've found that cooking at home provides a more cost-effective alternative. Fresh produce and groceries can be sourced from local wet markets or supermarkets at competitive prices. Let me break down the potential savings:

Ingredients: When I purchase ingredients from markets, the cost is significantly lower compared to eating out. For example, buying vegetables and poultry for a meal for 2 might cost around SGD 13, while a similar dish at a restaurant could be priced at SGD 15 or above.

Supermarkets vs Wet Markets: Supermarkets not offer the convenience of finding everything in one place, prices can also be slightly lower. Wet markets, on the other hand, often provide fresher produce but at higher costs.

A simple comparison:

Ingredient Supermarket Cost Wet Market Cost
Chicken (1kg) From SGD 9.90 SGD 18.00
Rice (1kg) From SGD 3.88 SGD 4.00
Broccoli (300g) From SGD 3.20 SGD 3.50

Cooking at Home: By cooking at home, I can control portion sizes and meal planning, leading to less food wastage. Bulk purchases, such as rice and pasta, also reduce the cost per meal significantly.

Meal Prepping: Preparing meals for the week ahead saves time and money. Although initial efforts might seem tedious, the long-term savings are substantial.

In my experience, the initial investment in kitchen equipment pays off. Investing in good-quality utensils and appliances means that I can cook a diverse range of dishes without the added cost of dining out.

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